Today our Man Around Nairobi is Collins Nabiswa. Collins (Kollo) Nabiswa is the Social Media Editor at Nation Media Group. Kollo was born in Bungoma, raised in Thika Town, and schooled in Kisumu and Eldoret. Away from the newsroom, you are likely to find him on the rugby scene either with the whistle or heckling in the stands. He is also a language “lover”. He can speak and understand a number of African languages alongside English and French.
- Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I wasn’t born in Nairobi. I was born in Western Kenya before we moved to Thika in the early 1990s. Growing up in Thika was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. When we were tois we would go dufu mpararo in some place called Section 9 and swim the whole day, get clay and make toy cars and such. We would also be bold enough to go to Chania River for a swim and steal pineapples from Del Monte. This was a high-risk mission as those guards could unleash dogs that could maul you up. We however stopped going to Chania River when one of our friends drowned. Rest in peace Samuel Muchai.
I have been coming to Nairobi – well almost all of my childhood. We use to pass by to and from Thika. I experienced Nairobi alone in March 2000. I was a Form One at Maseno School and my dad took me there in February. During the closing day, I had to find my way to Thika. Fortunately, there was another Form One who also stayed in Thika. So we board Stagecoach in Kisumu and headed to Nairobi. The funny or sad thing is that none of us knew where to pick the 237 matatus to Thika. We reached Nairobi at around 4 pm and we started looking for this stage. Like good kids, we resisted the temptation to ask for directions (our parents had warned us not to talk to strangers in Nairobi.) We wandered the streets of Nairobi for two hours until we saw a 237 matatu. We followed it slowly as it made its way to the stage for 30 minutes. Boy! We were relieved to finally get a matatu home…We left the city at 8 pm but we had already mastered all the landmarks. On Ronald Ngala Street, you pass this tall building and then a white hotel then pap, there were the mats. We never got lost again.
My other memorable experience in this city was in 2009 soon after clearing college in Eldoret. I stayed with my cousin on Juja Road for a while and then got a job. So I was to move to my own house. I saw an advert in a newspaper (biggest blunder) for bedsitters in Ngara. They were going for 6k. I immediately called the number and the chap called Alex agreed to take me to the house. I paid 1000 bob viewing fee and off we went. He took me to some dirty infested rooms in some abandoned house near the Museums. I refused. So the following day he called me and told me he had found good houses. He took me to a new building and I liked it. But he didn’t have the key. So I gave him 10k, with a 2k balance to be paid once he gave me the key. Needless to say, that was the last time I ever saw him!
- What do you love about Nairobi?
What do I love about Nairobi? Well, I actually don’t know. I guess I love the 24-hour nature of this ever-purring city. It’s a great city. It challenges you to be always on your toes. You can never risk falling into your comfort zone. You have to continually update yourself both professionally and socially to be able to survive in this great jungle. But given an opportunity, I would choose to live and work elsewhere.
Nairobi gives me an opportunity to interact with my professional peers and there are lots of events to interact with industry leaders and opinion shapers. Being a digital journalist you really need to be updated on the changing trends of the industry and this can readily be done in the city.
- What would you change about Nairobi?
First, these crazy traffic jams! If there was anything that any governor or mayor of this city should have done years ago is eliminate or minimize time spent in crazy traffic jams. Whenever I’m in Bungoma (my home town), I am jealous of my boys. They wake up at 7.30 am and by 8.05 they’re already at work. They stroll back home in the evening. Yaani life in this city is an endless rat race!
I would like to change public perception about social media jobs. Most people think a social media editor or manager’s job is just about posting on Facebook or Twitter and you’re done. It involves a whole lot of day’s work. There is planning, execution, monitoring, and report. Listening in on the competition, advising your team on best practices, identifying new opportunities for the newsroom to exploit and so much more. It’s actually a lot more than tweeting.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Professionally, I don’t think I could be doing what I do in any other city with the same effectiveness. Nairobi has opened lots of doors for me and it continually avails opportunities for me to grow professionally. In this city if you are well brought up socially, you can make amazing networks that will support you in your career.
There are various challenges. The biggest challenge is trying to stick your neck out of the woods and be noticed. It’s a crowded field and every other person is doing his or her best to stand out. You need to better your competitor’s best. Challenges abound, create your own niche market and they’ll come for you to be in their team!
- If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting?
First of all, they need to take a ride in one of our mats (not those crazy Rongai lunatics). A chilled-out 58 mat with comfortable seats, nice music and good lighting.
Then of course they should not miss visiting the Nairobi National Park (most of my foreign friends always end up here).
After that, I have to take them to the Maasai market for to buy ethnic stuff. They have authentic Kenyan totems!
If you would like to interact with Kollo you can find him on social media at @kollonabiswa.
Man Around Nairobi: George Kilibwa